Glenis Willmott, MEP for the East Midlands and Labour’s Leader in Europe, is calling for European action to fight cancer in 2012.
Mrs Willmott said: “If 2011 was a year of bad news from Europe, I want to make sure 2012 is the year for good news.
“Sadly nearly everyone has been touched by cancer in one way or another, whether they’ve had cancer themselves or lost a loved one to the disease. Although most people might not think the European Parliament has anything to do with action against cancer, it actually has an important role to play and I will be doing a lot of work in 2012 to fight this devastating disease.”
Around 40% of cancers are preventable. Nutrition, alcohol consumption and sun exposure are all factors, but by far the biggest killer is tobacco. Half of all smokers will be killed by cigarettes, and tobacco is the second biggest cause of death worldwide. Next year the European Parliament will revise the EU Tobacco Products Directive and tough new measures such as pictorial health warnings and standardised packaging without branding will be debated.
Mrs Willmott said: “If we are serious about tackling the diseases caused by tobacco then we have to make smoking less appealing to young people. At the moment the tobacco industry is allowed to use the cigarette pack as their advertising board; instead we should be using it to inform people of the damage smoking can do.”
Restrictions on the use of additives and flavourings, especially fruit and candy flavours, will also be discussed. According to Mrs Willmott “these kinds of additives and flavourings clearly make tobacco more palatable for children, and must not be allowed.”
Australia has just introduced standardised packets for cigarettes, and Canada has tough restrictions on additives.
Mrs Willmott also wants more action against those cancers which cannot be avoided. Up to 50% of cancers are ‘rare’, but because so few patients suffer from each type it is hard to find enough in the UK to carry out trials of new drugs and treatments. Next year the European Parliament will also be revising Clinical Trials Directive.
Mrs Willmott said: “It is crucial we can work with our European partners on cross-border research into new ways of treating these cancers. I want to make sure the Clinical Trials Directive makes it easier to work together with other EU countries, and encourages and supports life-saving research.”